Four more Mountain Xpress staffers depart alt weekly as exodus grows

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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mountainxlogoI’ve received word that more employees are leaving the Mountain Xpress, Asheville’s alternative news weekly. This follows a wave of earlier defections. thus appears to be a full-on mass exodus now. The latest:

Julia Ritchey – Assistant Editor
Max Cooper – Staff Photographer
Dane Smith – Clubland Editor
Jen Orris – Calendar Editor
I reported the following departures in a September post:

Who’s gone or in the process of leaving? Here’s the list: Arts and entertainment editor Rebecca Sulock; food writer Emily Patrick; assistant editor Jay Bartell; ad design and pre-press coordinatorJohn Zara; art and design manager Carrie Lare; and graphic designer Sarah Riddle. These are all key positions.

More as I get it.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Tim October 29, 2013

    With all of the negative comments about MX and C-T looks like there is a big opportunity for you here Jason… Competition breeds excellence.

  2. Don Mak October 28, 2013

    See? Looks like the ex-Web Manager was a trendsetter back in May 😉

  3. J.C. Tripp October 27, 2013

    I was sitting at a downtown bar last night on Walnut Street (hint hint) and just happened to overhear a group of ladies chatting. The discussion was local salaries and the most vocal of the group was talking about her paltry pay at, you guessed, Mountain Xpress. She mentioned a figure, well under 20K, but said something like “it’s worth it to be able to live here”. From the exodous, I’d say it’s not worth it. Asheville is very rapidly eliminating the people that made it cool. Now you have people from Dallas, San Diego, NYC, etc. who cash out and find Asheville to be a bargain with their flipped cash. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mountain X is gone within five years. People use Trip Advisor, Yelp, Craig’s List, etc. for what it does. Without any serious journalism, it’s become quite disposable.

  4. Ron October 26, 2013

    The new food-section title has changed from “Food Writer” to “Food Coordinator.” This person will “help evolve the section into a forum for readers, food activists, restaurateurs, chefs and community leaders to tell their food stories.”

    Soliciting stories and photos…hmmm…Xpress has become a crowd-sourced paper.

  5. Sammy Cox October 26, 2013

    Avarice and greed are gonna drive you over the endless sea
    They will leave you drifting in the shallows or drowning in the oceans of history
    – Ship of Fools, World Party

    Local, independently owned doesn’t guarantee harmonious work conditions especially when it comes to print media. Regardless of the size, ownership or sector of business, we often experience top down, vertical conversations that discourage collaborations and engaging dialogue among its employees—“Public discourse” on the veneer, “the buck stops here!” within. Over the past 35 years, I’ve been fortunate to work in a variety of business sectors from public, private, non-profit to university and private college. All of these opportunities have been exciting, engaging and rewarding experiences.

    Mountain Xpress was by far the most dysfunctional, top-down and artificial organization that I’ve ever worked for. When I abruptly resigned in 2011, I voiced these sentiments directly to the publisher and told him that Mountain Xpress has lost its way. I left him with ‘part’ of a Sir Roger Bannister (first athlete to break the four-minute mile) quote:
    If a man coaches himself, then he only has himself to blame …

    1. Harry Sax October 30, 2013

      You owe Karl Wallenger $.00001

  6. ArtsyFartsy October 25, 2013

    I’ve been told from multiple sources within or one degree away from the paper that Mr. Fobes has done nothing but muck up management with poor decision after poor decision over the past 2 years including never backing his staff. Lots of advertisers have pulled out over this time period too. It’s a damn shame that the Xpress, which used to be the best source of news, opinion & editorials, has become a drivel of Best Of popularity contests. Without some real turn around I wouldn’t wish a job there on my worst enemy… unfortunately it’s a sinking ship.

    1. NFB October 26, 2013

      Agreed. MX used to have top notch investigative reporting features but in recent years has little more than an arts journal with lots of food articles. Other than its coverage of City Council and County Commission meetings (far better coverage than the Citizen-Times) there is little about it that is worth reading anymore. Sad.

      1. ArtsyFartsy October 26, 2013

        Arts coverage? Ha. They cover whatever is in the click of their little group of people, but never really stray outside of their little comfort zone (and it’s never really an actual well written review or critique but rather just the same old AVL xenophobic fluff). The articles are mostly music, not really ‘the arts.’
        It’s pretty much the Ken Hanke & David Forbes show, and thank goodness at least for David Forbes (and in recent years Jake Frankel & Caitlin Byrd as well) but every time some real talent comes to work for the paper the management takes advantage of those employees until they drive them away. Or if those employees stand up for themselves management makes it too difficult a workplace for those people to continue working there. The paper has no real competition so anyone who wants the experience of working for a non-Gannett paper in the region is going to have to settle for the nearly abusive situation that goes on at the MX. Occasionally they put out a good hard-hitting cover story, but that is because of the talent of their couple of outstanding reporters, not because of what the paper actually is doing.

  7. ashevillain October 25, 2013

    Out of curiosity, what positions do you consider as NOT “key positions.”


    1. Jason Sandford October 26, 2013

      Good point! I was trying to note that those who were leaving early on we’re in management, leadership roles.

  8. BTK October 25, 2013

    What’s the deal here? Has anyone explained why they’re losing so many personnel? If so, I missed it.

  9. Jason W. October 25, 2013

    I’m not surprised Max Cooper left after they started soliciting for unpaid amateur photos in the last issue.

    1. Sammy Cox October 26, 2013

      I might suggest that current and former employees, including Mr. Fobes follow Xpress’ creed and encourage an open dialogue about the recent mass departures. Sure it’s a personnel concern but it also involves our community — work force, advertisers, merchants and loyal readers. After all, who’s watching the watchdog? Sounds like a news story to me…Exodus, movement of jah people.


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